The Complete Guide to Branding in 2021
Our brand is vital to us.
Did you know that approximately 89 percent of marketers say that building brand awareness is their top priority? Is this your number one goal as well?
If you want to succeed in building a memorable and unique brand for 2021 (and beyond), it’s important to have a thorough understanding of the basics. You need to know what branding is, for starters, the difference between branding and marketing, and what not to do when branding your business.
Luckily, we’re here to provide answers to all of the most frequently asked branding questions. Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to create a memorable brand and set your business up for long-term success.
What Is Branding?
Before we start exploring what goes into creating a memorable, unique brand, we first need to make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to what a brand is. After all, you can’t build what you don’t understand, right?
The term “brand” refers to the features that separate one business or organization from others. There’s a lot that falls under the umbrella of your company’s brand, including the following:
- Brand name
- Brand tagline
- Logos or symbols
- Brand voice
In addition to these elements, your brand also includes the experience that a customer has when they shop or engage with your business, both in-person and online. This includes shopping at your store, visiting your website, and following you on social media.
Ideally, your brand will be so distinct that people will instantly recognize it (think about how easy it is to spot an Apple product or a Jeep). They will also know what they can expect when they interact with it in some way (e.g., the type of service they’ll receive) and what your values are as a company (do you care about the environment, do you value simplicity and modernism, etc.).
What Is Branding?
Now that you have a clearer understanding of what makes up a brand, let’s talk about branding. Branding is the process of conducting research, developing various visual brand elements (such as your logo), and then applying features to your organization so that people can start to recognize your brand and associate it with the specific products or services that you offer.
Branding Vs. Marketing
It’s not uncommon for the terms branding and marketing to be used interchangeably. A lot of people even think that they’re synonyms. In reality, though, there are some important differences between the two terms.
One way to remember the differences between branding and marketing is to think of branding as the who and marketing as the how.
Your branding efforts help customers to get to know who you are and what your business is all about. Your marketing efforts are the specific practices that you engage in to share that information. This includes things like social media ads, direct mail ads, and content marketing.
Branding and marketing are both essential practices if you want to grow your business. However, it’s important to start with branding. You can’t effectively market something that doesn’t exist, can you?
Begin by establishing and developing your brand. From there, it’ll be easy for you to identify the marketing strategies that are most appropriate for getting your message out there and getting it in front of the right people.
Key Branding Terms to Know
Branding has its own language. When you start diving into the world of creating a brand, you’ll likely come across a lot of terms that you’ve never heard before or aren’t sure how to define.
Here are some key terms to keep in mind as you continue on your journey and start working on building your brand:
As the name suggests, this term refers to the number of people who are aware of your brand. How many people know of your business?
Without a strong sense of brand awareness, it’s going to be hard for people to buy your products or invest in your services. After all, you can’t pay for what you’ve never heard of.
Your brand identity refers to your business’s personality, as well as the promises you make your customers and the values that you embody.
How do you communicate about your products or services? What do you want people to feel when they engage with your brand?
The more you think about and find ways to answer these questions, the easier it’ll be for you to build a strong brand and a thriving business.
Keep in mind that brand identity also includes both visual identity and verbal identity.
Visual identity includes all of the visual elements of your branding, such as color choices, typography, and website design. Verbal identity, on the other hand, describes the specific language that’s used within your brand.
Similar to brand awareness is brand recognition. Brand recognition takes things a step farther and ensures that people can, you guessed it, recognize your brand when they’re shopping online or in the store. How easy is it for them to spot your brand even if they don’t see the name of the business itself?
You don’t have to see the name “Target” to know when you’ve driven past a Target store, do you? The same should be true of your brand. People shouldn’t have to see your name to know when they’ve come across one of your products or driven by one of your stores.
There are a lot of ways that someone can recognize your brand. There’s your logo, of course, but there’s also your tagline, your jingle, and your packaging that all play into building brand recognition.
Do people trust and believe in your brand? Do they see you as a trustworthy, credible source that they can rely on to provide a certain quality of product or service on a consistent basis?
If you want to build brand loyalty and keep people coming back, again and again, to buy your products or pay for your services, it’s imperative that they see you as trustworthy.
Another way to think of brand management is brand maintenance. This term encapsulates everything you do to maintain your brand and ensure that every step you and your employees take is in line with your brand’s mission and values.
Brand management includes tangible things like your company’s style guide and preferred color palette. There are intangible elements of it, too, such as audience perception.
If a brand expands and starts developing products in a new industry or market, they’ve created a brand extension.
Arm & Hammer has several great examples of brand extensions. For instance, the baking soda maker has expanded into a variety of markets, including pet care (with their baking soda infused kitty litter) and personal care (with their baking soda infused toothpaste).
Finally, how valuable is your brand? What do you have to offer to investors, shareholders, and other companies?
If you do a good job of building a strong brand, you’ll increase its valuation and ensure that you can stick around and thrive long-term.
Why Is Branding Important?
At this point, you’ve likely started to piece together why it’s important to build a unique and memorable brand for your business.
Good branding makes it easier for people to recognize your products or services and increases the likelihood that they’ll want to invest in them. It also increases the value of your business and increases people’s trust in you and what you have to offer.
But wait, there’s more!
If you’re still wondering whether or not it’s worth it for you to invest time and effort into better brand development, consider some of the other advantages that effective branding can provide:
Increased Word of Mouth Advertising
People are going to be much more inclined to talk about your brand if they can recognize it. They’ll also be more likely to recommend it to their friends and family members. As a result, you’ll see an improvement in your brand’s public image and an increase in customers. You’ll likely have an easier time expanding, too.
Increased Employee Satisfaction
Branding doesn’t just affect your customers. It also affects your employees. When you make a concentrated effort to establish and live up to your brand values, your employees benefit, too.
This can lead to increased employee satisfaction and higher rates of employee retention. Satisfied employees are more likely to be motivated and engaged at work, too. They’ll be more productive and more innovative, and will be eager to take steps that help the business to continue growing.
More Hiring Opportunities
Not only will you have an easier time retaining employees and keeping them motivated if you work hard to build a strong, positive brand, but you’ll also have an easier time attracting new employees who are highly skilled and have a lot to offer.
Think about it: everyone knows how to spot an Apple product, and Apple likely has never (at least not any time in recent history) had trouble finding a talented, qualified individual to fill a spot. When you take the time to establish your brand, you’ll have people banging down your door wanting to work for you.
Remember earlier, when we talked about how you can’t market something that doesn’t exist?
When you put in the time needed to create a unique and memorable brand, your marketing and advertising efforts will be much easier to carry out. You and your team won’t have to guess at whether or not a certain marketing tactic aligns with your brand because you’ll have a clear idea of what your brand represents.
How to Create a Memorable Brand
Now that we’ve built a strong foundation and helped you understand branding basics (and the importance of good branding), let’s get into the meat of this guide. How do you create a memorable brand that stands out from the competition?
Here are the most important steps to take if you want to succeed:
Get to Know Your Target Audience
The first step to take toward building a strong brand identity is to get to know your audience. You need to know whom you’re trying to reach with your logo, tagline, and other branding efforts if you want to be effective, right?
There are a few different strategies you can implement to get to know your audience, including the following:
- Check out case studies from other marketers in your industry to see what they’ve learned about people who buy products or services like yours
- Create customer personas that reflect the characteristics of the average member of your target audience (how old are they, what is their gender, what is their income level, what are their hobbies, etc.)
- Conduct surveys (start with your social media audience or folks on your email list) to learn more about the people who have already shown an interest in your brand
- Check out your competitors to get an idea of the kind of people they’re trying to reach (this can also help you to identify gaps in their target market that you might want to try and fill)
As you’re going through this stage of the branding process, remember to always challenge your assumptions (you know what they say when you assume, after all).
You might think you have a good handle on your target audience. Stay open-minded, though, and allow your mindset and approach to shift when you’re presented with new information about those who buy or are interested in buying what you’re selling.
Draft a Mission Statement
Once you know more about the people to whom you’re appealing with your branding, create a mission statement for your business that spells out for them what your business is all about. Remember, too, that putting together a mission statement also helps you and your team stay focused and ensure you’re always putting out products or offering services that reflect your values.
Writing a mission statement can seem daunting at first. If you’re not sure where to begin, start by answering these questions:
- What are your goals?
- Why should people want to work for you and be a part of your brand?
- How is your business different from your competitors?
As you’re answering these questions, be sure to keep your mission statement simple and straightforward. You’re not writing a college entrance essay here.
It’s also important to remain realistic. A good mission statement should be plausible and should relate back to the specific products or services that the business offers.
Let everyone on your team review and provide feedback on the company mission statement, too. This helps you ensure that it truly reflects the values of the company.
Identify Values, Features, and Benefits
At the same time that you’re putting together your mission statement, spend some time thinking about the specific values that your company has. Consider the unique features of your brand and the benefits that it will provide to your customers, too.
Sit down with your team to come up with your brand values. What are the most important things that you want people to associate with your company? Integrity? Sustainability? Efficacy?
While you’re brainstorming with your team, think about the elements of your brand that separate it from the competition and make it a better fit for your target audience. In what ways does your brand improve people’s lives? How does it help them to accomplish their goals?
When you’re able to answer these questions, it’ll be easier for you to figure out what to highlight when you’re creating a logo, designing packaging, writing a jingle, or doing anything else related to branding your business.
Create Visual Assets
At this stage of the branding process, you likely have a pretty solid idea of who makes up your audience and what you want them to get out of your branding efforts.
Now, it’s time to take things a step farther and actually create the visual assets associated with your brand. This includes the following:
Your logo is one of the most important parts of your brand identity. It’ll be featured on everything you produce, from your website to your packaging.
Your logo needs to be unique so that people can recognize and remember it. It also should be adaptable so that you can showcase it on a variety of surfaces (print and digital) without it getting distorted.
Another important part of creating visual assets is determining your color palette.
When choosing the colors that will make up your logo and represent your brand, it’s helpful to think about the basics of color psychology so you can choose options that align with your values. For example, if one of your values is sustainability or environmental friendliness, colors associated with nature like green or brown are good picks.
Don’t forget about fonts, either. Fonts help to make your brand recognizable, and they do a lot when it comes to communicating values and showing off personality. A cheerful, curly font will send a different message to your audience than a very simple, minimalist font, right?
Establish a Style Guide
Be sure to include all of these elements in your brand’s style guide. The style guide makes it easy for your team to ensure they’re making decisions that align with your brand values and mission statement. It also helps new hires to avoid making mistakes when they start creating marketing materials for you.
Clarify Brand Voice
Another key part of your brand guidelines should be your brand voice. When establishing and clarifying your brand voice, think about the following:
What kind of words and tone will you use in your marketing materials? Do you want to stick to simple, fun, conversational language? Do you prefer a more formal, professional approach?
There’s no one right answer here. It all goes back to your mission statement, brand values, and target audience.
Consider the stories you want to tell when building and promoting your brand, too. Stories are essential if you want to connect to your audience, build a relationship with them, and help them to feel loyal to you.
When thinking about stories to tell your audience, make sure they’re being told using the language and tone you’ve decided works best for your business. A silly story isn’t going to be a good fit for a serious law firm, for example.
Build Brand Awareness
When you’ve established the basics of your brand and created a style guide that you can easily reference, it’s time to start building brand awareness and getting your message out there for your target audience to see.
Building brand awareness is complex and takes time to get right. Here are some practical steps you might want to take when you’re getting started:
- Update your packaging with your brand’s logo, color palette, and fonts
- Create and use brand hashtags on social media
- Post on social media on a regular basis
- Run display ads online
- Create a referral program
- Publish guest posts on blogs or industry publications
- Partner with local brands
- Work with social media influencers
All of these strategies are great for getting your brand name out there and getting people interested in what you have to offer.
No matter what specific steps you take to brand your business and build brand awareness, it’s important to be consistent. A lack of consistency will make it difficult, if not impossible, for people to start recognizing your brand and looking deeper into the products or services that you offer.
Remember, it takes repeated exposure for brand recognition to happen. If people are seeing something different every time they interact with your brand, they’re not going to remember you. They might also question your credibility, which is the last thing you want when you’re trying to build a successful business.
Be Willing to Adapt
Consistency matters, clearly. At the same time, though, you should be willing to adapt your branding over time.
Monitor the performance of your brand and take note of which elements seem to be working and which ones don’t.
Consider how people are responding to various aspects of your brand, like your logo and the tone of your content. If you’re not getting the response you’d hoped for, you might want to think about making some adjustments.
Common Branding Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
It helps to know what to do when creating your brand. At the same time, though, it also helps to know what not to do.
Here are some common mistakes people make when branding their business, as well as some tips on how to avoid making them yourself:
Sending Mixed Messages
Are you using different language, colors, and/or visuals for different kinds of marketing materials? If so, it’s going to be hard for people to figure out what your brand is all about. They’ll also be hesitant about trusting you and buying what you’re selling.
There’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from your competitors and learning from them. However, it’s important not to blatantly copy them.
Not only could this result in potential legal issues, but it also reflects badly on your brand. People don’t want to buy from a company that rips off its competitors, after all.
Inconsistency On and Offline
Make sure you’re consistent in all of your branding efforts, both online and offline. For the best results, your print marketing materials should have the same colors, logo, fonts, etc. as your online marketing materials.
Not Tracking Progress
If you want to know if your rebranding efforts are working, you need to measure and track your progress over time.
Take note of data points like how many social media followers you have, your online engagement rates, the number of people who visit your website, and your conversion rates when you first launch your brand (or rebrand). Then, measure how those numbers change over time so you can adjust your brand strategy if needed.
Trying to Do Everything Alone
Remember that you don’t have to build a brand alone. As you can see from reading this guide (you’re over 3,000 words in at this point!), branding is a big job.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all that goes into creating a memorable and unique brand in 2021, consider working with a team of professionals who know what it takes to get the job done right the first time around.
Outsourcing your branding to an agency that specializes in digital marketing will help you to make sure all your bases are covered. You’ll also be able to rest easy knowing that everything will be consistent and in line with your goals and values.
Signs You Need to Improve Your Branding
Okay, you’re convinced that your branding matters, and you know what kinds of mistakes to avoid along the way. How do you know if your brand needs a makeover, though? How can you tell if you still have work to do when it comes to building your brand?
Here are some warning signs and common branding mistakes to be on the lookout for. They’ll help you to determine whether or not you need to make some changes in the branding department:
- You’re not seeing results: If your business has been around for a while and you’re not achieving your goals, it might be time to make some tweaks to your brand
- You’ve never updated your branding: Have you had the same brand image and voice ever since your business was founded? If it’s been a few years (or longer) since you rebranded, consider doing so now
- You don’t have a style guide: Do you have any kind of rules for your brand? If not, there’s no time like the present to create a style guide and start putting some guidelines in place
Examples of Great Branding
What does great branding look like? What kinds of businesses should you be using as inspiration for your own branding efforts?
The following are some of our favorite examples of great branding in action:
Yeti is known for its full line of insulated tumblers and coolers that keep drinks hot or cold for busy folks on the go. Yeti’s branding is simple, straightforward, and geared specifically toward people who spend a lot of time outdoors and want their drinks to maintain a consistent temperature.
It wouldn’t be an article about branding without mention of Apple. It’s not hard to recognize the signature Apple logo when you’re out and about. Even though the company’s branding has gone through a variety of changes through the years, they’ve maintained the same elegant, minimalistic elements of their logo and design, which marks it easy to spot an Apple product anywhere.
According to Jeep's website, the company values freedom, adventure, authenticity, and passion. All of these elements are illustrated in Jeep’s branding, from the simple, no-fuss logo to their slogan, “Go Anywhere. Do Anything.”
Uber may be a relatively new company, but most people have no trouble identifying their logo. A quick look at Uber’s brand guidelines, from color to tone of voice, make it clear that they value simplicity, freedom, efficiency, and helpfulness.
In an effort to differentiate itself from its competition, Airbnb created the Belo, an icon that highlights some of the company’s core values, such as belonging and inclusion. It matches up perfectly with the brand’s slogan, “Belong Anywhere” and is easy to spot throughout the world.
Start Building Your Brand Today
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into building a brand, increasing brand awareness, and encouraging brand loyalty. It’s not just about using the right colors in your logo!
If you keep the information discussed in this guide in mind, you’ll have a much easier time putting together an effective brand strategy. Remember, though, that you also don’t have to do all of this on your own.
Building a brand is hard, but building a brand by yourself is even harder. At Brewww, we offer high-quality in-house branding services and take away a lot of the stress associated with branding, digital marketing, and more.
When you work with us, you can rest easy that your business’s branding is being taken care of by experienced professionals. We’ll work with you every step of the way to meet your unique goals, increase awareness, and ensure your business succeeds.
Contact us today to learn more about our services or to schedule a consultation.